Fish is a controversial food. While some people don’t like its soft texture and salty taste, others love it because it’s lighter and often healthier than meat. One of the most popular types of fish is salmon. And as it’s also a very versatile sea creature, it can be prepared in numerous ways and served with many different types of wine. But which wine and salmon pairings are best?

The best wine to pair with salmon is a white wine with a medium or full body. To stand the oily rich flesh, it needs a decent level of acidity. Oaked Chardonnay and Riesling are good matches. Their citrus flavors complement most salmon dishes.

Depending on preparation and seasoning, other wines, including reds and sparkling wines can be great alternatives. So let’s discuss the best wine and salmon pairings.

What Is Salmon and How Does It Taste?

Salmon is a saltwater fish that is native to the Pacific as well as the Atlantic ocean. It’s fished from the wild, especially in Alaska or bred in fish farms, for instance, in Norway or Chile. With its oily pink flesh and its rich and refreshing taste, it differs significantly from other seafood. It might remind you of light meat rather than fish. That’s why many people, who don’t like fish in general, enjoy eating salmon.

Another fact that makes salmon popular worldwide is that it’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. Omega-3 acids are good for the heart, and Vitamin D helps prevent diseases like cancer and diabetes. So salmon is actually great for your health.

As it’s a very versatile fish, you can prepare it in numerous ways. You can poach, grill, bake, or smoke it. You can serve it with a creamy sauce or season it with herbs and a bit of lemon juice. Besides, it’s common to eat salmon raw as tartare or sushi. Depending on the preparation method and the seasoning, you can create very different culinary experiences.

Two Thick Slices of Raw Salmon on a Wooden Board with Carrots and Cucumber

Raw Salmon Filets

Which Wine and Salmon Pairings Work Best?

The general rules for pairing food and wines are pretty simple: Red wines go with red meat, and white wines go with white meat. Strictly speaking, fish isn’t meat, but for the sake of simplicity, it’s usually put into the white meat category. And it’s common to combine fish dishes with light and dry white wines.

As mentioned before, salmon is different, though. Due to its rich flavor, it can easily overpower light-bodied wines. Thus, medium- or full-bodied wines that have intense and complex flavors are better matches. Oaked Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Marsanne, or Riesling have these characteristics.

Even red wines can be great matches for salmon. It’s essential to go for low-tannin wines, though. Sharp, crisp tannins can cause an unpleasant metallic taste when combined with the oily, salty flesh of salmon.

No matter if you prefer whites or reds, you should take the cooking method, the seasoning, and the side dishes into consideration before making your choice. With preparation and the use of spices, you can create very different culinary experiences that might require another wine pairing. Let’s have a closer look at specific wine and salmon matches.

Raw Salmon and Wine

If you serve raw salmon, for instance, tartare, sushi, sashimi, or gravlax, pick a crispy white wine with citrus flavors and good acidity. Try a Grüner Veltliner from Austria or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region in France.

In case you like rosé wines, try one from the Loire Valley in France. Especially those made with the Saignée Method from the Chinon appellation are great matches. They are bolder than other rosé wines, making them perfect for fantastic wine and salmon pairings.

Raw Salmon

Plate of Raw Seasoned Salmon

Try one of these wines with raw salmon dishes:

Weingut Alzinger Steinertal Smaragd Grüner Veltliner 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Austria, Wachau
  • varietal: Grüner Veltliner
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Pratsch Organic Grüner Veltliner 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Austria, Niederösterreich
  • varietal: Grüner Veltliner
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Schloss Gobelsburg Schlosskellerei Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Austria, Kamptal
  • varietal: Grüner Veltliner
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Charles Joguet Chinon Rose 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Cabernet Franc
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Gerard Boulay Sancerre Rose Chavignol Tradition 2018

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Domaine des Nouelles Rose d'Anjou 2020

  • type: rosé, still, Vintage
  • origin: France, Loire Valley
  • varietal: Cabernet Franc, Grolleau
  • alcohol: 10.5%

Crispy Baked Salmon and Wine

Baking salmon in the oven gives it a crispy skin and intense flavors. A light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir is a great pairing for this preparation. An option for lovers of red wine is Beaujolais, a French wine made from Gamay grapes. It’s low in tannins but high in acidity. Its fruity and earthy aromas complement the salmon’s flavors superbly. Sangiovese can work as well. But as its tannins tend to be much more intense, it can overpower the fish.

Riesling that isn’t too dry is a good pick for white wine lovers. Try a German Riesling Kabinett or Riesling Spätlese that is labeled as “restsüß” (or “restsüss”):

Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 8.5%

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2016

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Rheingau
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 7.5%

J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Germany, Mosel
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 9.0%

Grilled Salmon and Wine

By grilling salmon, you can add smoky flavors to it. These rich aromas allow you to pair it with full-bodied red wines. As said before, you have to consider tannins when matching red wine and salmon. Tannins can create an unpleasant metallic taste when combined with fish, so always go for low-tannin wines.

Gamay is a great choice, and like for raw salmon, you can also go for a Saignée rosé wine. If you are more into whites than into reds, pick a dry Pinot Gris (check the recommendations in the Asian-style salmon section below).

When barbecued with Cajun- or Creole-style spices, a more robust red is the right choice for a delicious wine and salmon match. Merlot or Zinfandel wines will do the job:

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Zinfandel
  • alcohol: 15.0%

Rombauer El Dorado Twin Rivers Zinfandel 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Zinfandel
  • alcohol: 16.0%

Hartford Russian River Old Vine Zinfandel 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Zinfandel
  • alcohol: 16.0%

Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2019

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot
  • alcohol: 14.5%

Browne Family Vineyards Merlot 2015

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, Washington State
  • varietal: Merlot
  • alcohol: 14.5%

PlumpJack Merlot 2018

  • type: red, still, Vintage
  • origin: United States, California
  • varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot
  • alcohol: 15.0%
Plate of Grilled Salmon with Vegetables

Grilled Salmon with Vegetables

Smoked Salmon and Wine

Smoked salmon with onions and lemon (juice) is a traditional Christmas meal in some parts of Europe. But it’s also a well-known breakfast dish when served with cream cheese on bread or toast. Match your salty smoked salmon and wine with a good level of acidity.

For red wine lovers, Grenache (or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain) is a great option too. Its smoky and earthy flavors match perfectly with the taste of the smoked salmon. Besides, the medium tannins and decent acidity balance the fish’s fatty texture.

In case you prefer white wine, choose a German Riesling. Its citrus flavors are perfect for creating a delicious salmon and wine pairing:

Rebholz Von Rotliegenden Riesling Trocken 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Pfalz, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Burklin-Wolf Pfalz Estate Riesling Trocken 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Pfalz, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Von Winning Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling Erste Lage Trocken 2020

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Pfalz, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Instead of white and red still wines, many gourmets drink sparkling wines like Sekt or Champagne with smoked salmon. White and rosé styles tend to taste delicious with it. They balance the fattiness and saltiness of the fish and the smoky aromas just perfectly.

Fitz-Ritter Riesling Extra Trocken Sekt

  • type: white, sparkling
  • origin: Pfalz, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Maximin Grünhaus Mosel Riesling Brut Sekt 2018

  • type: white, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Mosel, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Bernhard Rheinhessen Riesling Brut Sekt 2015

  • type: white, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Rheinhessen, Germany
  • varietal: Riesling
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Lothar Kettern Spätburgunder Rosé Sekt

  • type: rosé, sparkling
  • origin: Mosel, Germany
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Sekthaus Raumland Rosé Prestige Brut Sekt

  • type: rosé, sparkling
  • origin: Rheinhessen, Germany
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Von Buhl Pfalz Rose Brut Sekt 2017

  • type: rosé, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Pfalz, Germany
  • varietal: Pinot Noir
  • alcohol: 12.5%

If you are open to some experimenting, you can also try Manzillado Sherry, which is a dry fortified wine from Spain.

Glazed Salmon and Wine

Especially in Asian cuisine, salmon often is served glazed. Teriyaki, Yakitori, or similar glazes typically contain sweet ingredients like brown sugar, honey, agave syrup, or pineapple juice.

Match your sweet-glazed salmon and wine with distinct citrus aromas. Many dry whites belong to this category, for instance, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Albariño.

Trimbach Gewürztraminer 2017

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Albert Boxler Gewürztraminer Reserve 2018

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Alsace, France
  • varietal: Gewürztraminer
  • alcohol: 14.0%

Fans of fortified wines can also pair glazed salmon preparations with Sherry Fino.

Roasted or Poached Salmon and Wine

Another classic preparation for salmon is a creamy topping like sauce béarnaise, a yogurt-cucumber-dressing, or a horseradish topping with dill. The right pairing for these dishes is a semi-sweet or sweet wine. Great options are the formerly mentioned sweet Rieslings or still Moscato wines. In case you like sparkling wines, try a Lambrusco:

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2020

  • type: red, sparkling, Vintage
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 11.0%

Bertolani Lambrusco Dolce

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 12.0%

Venturini Baldini Marchese Manodori Lambrusco

  • type: red, sparkling
  • origin: Emilia-Romagna, Italy​
  • varietal: Lambrusco
  • alcohol: 12.0%

If you prefer dry wines, oaked Chardonnay, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, are good choices. focus on those from the New World, for example, Australia:

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2017

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Australia, Western Australia
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 13.5%

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2019

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Australia, Western Australia
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Stella Bella Chardonnay 2018

  • type: white, still, Vintage
  • origin: Australia, Western Australia
  • varietal: Chardonnay
  • alcohol: 13.0%

Asian Style Salmon and Wine

Fish is an ingredient in many spicy meals from the Vietnamese, Thai, or Indonesian cuisine. Dishes like Choo Chee or Thai Curry-style salmon combine fruity and spicy flavors with a creamy texture.

Pair these dishes with fruity white wines, for example, German Riesling or French Sémillion. Dry wines are fine, but you can also try an off-dry or semi-sweet style.

Another alternative to pair Asian-style salmon and wine is Italian Pinot Grigio. These bottles are worth opening:

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2020

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2019

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 12.5%

Schiopetto Pinot Grigio 2018

  • type: white, still, dry, Vintage
  • origin: Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
  • varietal: Pinot Gris
  • alcohol: 13.0%
Wine and Salmon Asian Style

Asian Style Salmon Dish

Final Words

No matter which style of preparing and seasoning you choose, you’ll find multiple wine and salmon pairings that work fine. In the end, the perfect pairing is a question of personal preference. Thus, you should try different styles to find out which pairing you like best. And maybe it makes sense to offer your guests more than one option to choose from when hosting your next salmon dinner party.